October 28th, 2008
08:00 PM ET
11 years ago

Texas county's machines causing concern for some voters

A caller to CNN's voter hotline reported that his mother had difficulty accurately casting her ballot on a touch screen like the one pictured here.

A caller to CNN's voter hotline reported that his mother had difficulty accurately casting her ballot on a touch screen like the one pictured here.

(CNN) – Voters this election cycle are braving many challenges. Lines have been long for early voting in some states, some voters face rigorous identification standards, and there’s even a dress code for voters in some states.

Being certain your vote is accurately recorded is the final hurdle to participating in what is shaping up to be an unprecedented level of voter interest and turnout in the presidential election; some callers to CNN’s voter hotline are reporting problems with this important final step in the voting process.

A caller from Beaumont, Texas reports that his mother, who he accompanied to the polls, had problems assuring the electronic touch screen machine was accurately recording her preference for Sen. Barack Obama. “She went to punch the selection for Obama and it flipped to McCain,” the caller said. “They need to do something about this. They need to separate the names. Put ‘em apart, pretty much. Side-by-side instead of stacked on top of one another. This issue needs to be addressed,” said the caller.

Carolyn Guidry, the clerk of Jefferson County where Beaumont is located, is aware of the difficulties some voters are having with the county’s electronic touch screen voting machines though she points out the number of reported incidents is small. Approximately 40,000 people in Jefferson County have voted early as of Saturday night, according to Guidry. But she has only received about a half a dozen calls about touch screen machines that were not recording voters’ preferences accurately.

The “touch screens are density sensitive,” explained Guidry, who added that the machines will record were pressure is applied and that may be a different spot on the screen than where a voter believes he or she has touched. “We go out immediately and re-calibrate machines that [polling workers] say they are having problems with,” Guidry said. Calibration, the process of identifying for the machine the point on the screen that is being touch, generally resolves the problem until repeated use of the machine requires another re-calibration.

But Guidry concedes that the problem pointed out by the caller from Beaumont is something that needs fixing. “I wish we could more or less double the space between each box [with the candidates’ names on the touch screen],” said Guidry. “But the program is not designed to do that right now.” Guidry also told CNN that Jefferson County has asked Election Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the county’s machines, to look into making that change in the next iteration of the software.

Ken Fields, a spokesman for ES&S, told CNN the company was not aware of specific situations where its machines have not performed as designed. Like Guidry, Fields noted the importance being sure the machines are properly calibrated and he noted that ES&S recommends its machines be calibrated before “an election event.”

Fields also emphasized that the company’s machines have a summary screen that allows a voter to review all of his or her selections as recorded by the machine before a ballot is actually cast. The summary screen is an “important” part of the safeguards built into ES&S machines, according to Fields. Voters “absolutely should” utilize the summary screen because it allows a voter to see “clearly how choices have been selected” on an ES&S machine before a ballot is cast, Fields said.

Guidry echoed Fields’ advice. While Guidry says Jefferson County has a responsibility to make sure its machines are functioning properly, “we also want voters to take accountability too and that’s what that summary screen is for,” the county clerk said.

–CNN's Leslie Bentz contributed to this report

Filed under: Texas • Voter Problems
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. mom for obama

    Funny how all the mistakes involve votes for Obama changing to votes for McCain...

    Vote Obama supporters! Don't let us get stuck with McCain and Palin for the next 4 years!

    October 28, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  2. Turnabout is fair play

    No Hillary = No Obama October 28th, 2008 9:48 pm ET

    I went down to the voter registration office a month ago to change my affiliation from Democrat to Independent. So they send me TWO absentee ballots. Good thing I don't work for ACORN.


    As if changing your affiliation will make any difference. Your name just shows your incalculable ignorance because Obama and Hillary's policies are so much closer together than Hillary and McCain's. Let alone the fact that she has gotten over losing and is support Obama. You need to get your head out of your @ss and grow up mentally. You are of the brainless few who go on emotions rather than common sense although in your case, it might well be racism. In either case, Obama WILL be your master and you, his b!tch.

    October 28, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  3. Northwest Washington

    Republican voting machines do not vote for Democratic candidates under any reason.

    October 28, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  4. TexasLady

    Accountability – that's a scary word. One the Dems don't even want to acknolwedge.

    Wow – personal responsiblity!!

    October 28, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  5. Raj, Canada

    S.Boatman: The year was 2000 and the election was in Florida. Remember that story? Everyone across the world remembers what happened. That should explain

    October 28, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  6. Listen to Our Children

    Geez, Obama breaks his promise to elect public financing because he could collect more money from special interests if he didn't and still these CNN bias for Obama stories persist.

    Oh, Campbel Brown – all bias all BS – one story pointing out a broken Obama promise in the midst of a landslide of stories favoring Obama doesn't a no bias claim make.

    Listen to our children and ensure that we have a NEW news organization in 2012 that doesn't slam females – all sexist, pro racial profiling news organization move over...in fact – get out of town..I'm a CSPAN man!

    October 28, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  7. Moon Maiden from Lake Michigan

    One Would Think After 2000 We Could Have A Rliable Method of Casting Our Vote. This Voter Fraud Is a Disgrace and Unnecessary.
    I Voted With Paper. I Feel Confident My vote Was Counted Correctly.
    It Should Be Manatory That All States Have The Same Method.
    Keep It Simple Stupid.
    While the Polls Show Obama In the Lead.
    If McCAin Is Elected Then I and So Will Millions Of Others Will Cry out Voter Fraud.
    What A System We Have

    October 28, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  8. David Goldman



    October 28, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. j

    The Republicans can't win legitimately so they're using all sorts of fraudulent tactics like they have done in the past. These voter problems need to be addressed and corrected. This is America, not a 3rd world country. We can do better than this.

    October 28, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  10. Ben

    Anyone who has ever been to one of those museum kiosks where they teach you about the Solar System knows that Touch Screens are incredibly poor method of voting.

    October 28, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  11. Bill in Ct.

    As anyone notice, we never had these problems with voting until Bush and his corrupt party came on the seen. Since 2000 when they stole the election in Florida this crap have been going on every since, 04 in Ohio, now this time rig machines and fake fliers going out telling people they can't vote, spreading lies, calling Obama an terrorist, socialist, communist, and now he's a markist. Mccain and Palin are the true terrorist of the U.S.A.

    October 28, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  12. Gary

    If Bush wins Texas we'll know there was a problem.

    October 28, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  13. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    This makes you wonder did Kerry lose to Bush?

    October 28, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |

    After giving us the worst President in the history of the United States, is there anything else that Texas can screw up??

    October 28, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  15. Troy B.

    I don't know why these places can't just use the standard pencil and paper version. It has worked since the country began, why stop now? Not to mention, a sheet of paper is a lot harder to mess with than a computer system for someone that is any good at that.

    October 28, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  16. John S

    Steal the election any way they can. What else will these republicans try next. Disgusting.

    October 28, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  17. Bill in Ct.

    I am so tired of hearing about Obama didn't take campaign money, PPPPlease who cares, he said his campaign was for the people so the people help him build it, so all you idiots out here try coming up with something that really matters.

    October 28, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |






    October 28, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  19. indy voter

    I'm going to take my camera and shoot a short tape of my finger touching the Obama button and if it turns into a McCain vote, i am going to take the camera straight to the nearest FBI office....this is horrible to think that the computer age has given so much power to the fools who run the election process...

    European countries cast votes with 90% of their populations turning out and not a single episode of fraud or courts, or lawsuits or whatever happening......greatest country in the world my eye!!! 🙂

    October 28, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  20. Former Republican ~

    It disgusts me to see this happening yet again. And ironically, it always seems that the machines change the vote over to the Republican.
    We have voter rolls being blanket purged unlawfully, machines changing votes, and now the phony flier in parts of Virginia telling people that due to the long lines that Republicans are to go vote on Nov. 4th and Democrats on Nov. 5th. When will this insanity stop? The people perpetrating this kind of stuff need to go to jail.
    I've already voted by absentee ballot in Texas– I would sure like to think my vote might actually count!!!

    October 28, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  21. Nino

    Texas wants to vote for Obama. They must hate Bush down there?

    October 28, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  22. jason, tx

    It's Texas. GOP is in power here and will do anything to steal this election.

    October 28, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  23. xargaw

    What's wrong with a paper ballot and a #2 pencil?

    October 28, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  24. Fred

    I'm glad CNN is on this story! Good job!

    October 28, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  25. Terry - Ontario,Canada

    Freedom of choice is the most basic of rights guaranteed in a democracy and in our Constitution.

    We are citizens of a FREE COUNTRY. This right was earned by our
    ancestors, with blood, hard work and sacrifice.

    Every Canadian has the right to vote, we do not have to register, as
    Americans seem to have to, with all it's difficulties. We just had an
    election and we never heard of any of these problems you have and
    always seem to have.

    Your democracy has lost it's way.

    We never worry about healthcare and we never worry about having
    to prove we have the right to vote, in Canada.

    Then again, we do not have two-party rule.

    October 28, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
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